Decision Fatigue

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Recently I noticed I was overtired. Not the kind of tired where I’m not getting enough sleep but the weary kind that you just can’t put your finger on but know it’s there. I have had challenges focusing when my kids tell me what’s going on and being present to myself during my down time.

When I set out to find the reason, my usual suspects were not present- nutrition is good, plenty of exercise, getting to bed on time, etc- all there. We are planning an extended family vacation soon and that usually gets me in an excitement mode. I love planning. Except when there are too many things to plan on the table. And that’s when I found it. I’m not just planning my vacation but also my mom’s memorial service, the end of the school year tasks, business shifts and multiple personal projects. On top of the day to day tasks, I have placed too many demands on my brain.

My brain is tired from having to make too many decisions.

Modern society provides us with an amazing amount of choices.

Yesterday I was in the bread aisle of the grocery store. Have you ever stopped and marveled at the number of choices we have just for the type, brand and price of bread we have to chose from?

And that’s just bread.

We have to then leave that aisle to have even more choices in the next one.

What’s interesting about the brain is that it has a limited capacity for making decisions each day.

Research has shown that the more decisions we have to make in a day, the decreased quality of the decisions we make.

It’s called decision fatigue.

Some of the greatest minds of our time have mastered ways to minimize decisions that don’t matter to that so that their brain is at peak performance for the ones they do.

Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day. He has multiples of the same item and never chooses his clothing.

Warren Buffett eats the same lunch every day. No decision to be made during work hours.

But why does this matter in parenting?

Think about your day.

Consider all of the decisions you make getting ready in the morning, whether it be you or your kids.

Think about the all of the seemingly small decisions that occur in the day- like which bread to choose on the grocery aisle.

They add up really quickly.

Now the kids have returned from school. They arrive with unpredictable events to tell you about, homework assignments, needs for your attention and affection, etc. There may be therapy sessions, sports practices, requests for field trip forms and endless questions.

Now you are being faced with some bigger decisions about how to use your time and energy.

As we progress into the evening, we may be presented with parenting challenges that require us to make decisions about how to guide our children, to discipline or to listen. All while we have to take care of ourselves and our own work.

What often happens is that we have reached the point of decision fatigue before we get to this important time. We have used up our brain’s capacity for high quality decision making.

From that place, it’s so easy for us to go on default mode and parent from a place of fatigue, reacting to our kids instead of proactively living from our values and a place where we want to create the life we are wanting to live.

It becomes so simple to buffer our fatigue with food, alcohol, social media, Netflix. Yet this only serves to make us more tired and unable to create what we want in our lives.

What would it be like to have just a 5% improvement in decision making during that time?

I can tell you.

It’s amazing.

Problem solving becomes easier.

Being present to our kids becomes easier.

Handling challenges becomes easier.

In my coaching, I teach three critical components to the process:

1. Decrease the number of decisions that need to be made each day

2. Make decisions quickly and decisively. A decision that is mulled over takes more of our brain’s decision making energy.

3. Recognize that there are no bad decisions, only learning opportunities.

Learning these skills will change your own life and your family life.

Knowing this, I applied it to my situation. I wrote out everything I need to make a decision about, circled the items to delegate or dump and went for it. I allowed myself to let go of things I believed only I could do knowing my children will be better for having learned many of these skills. I stopped “thinking over” things on the list and made a decision. I calendared when I would make other decisions and dropped them out of my mind. Knowing it had a time and space cleared out that area of my brain. And guess what? Not having to carry around all of these decisions, I wasn’t so tired anymore.

And with this mental space, I am able to create more time, energy and presence for myself and my family.

How can you simplify one step today?

What is one decision you can make ahead of time to benefit you tomorrow?

It’s not easy but it is simple. We just have to manage your mind around how this can be done for you and your situation.

I can help. Email me at sarah@sarahkennedycoaching.com I’d love to connect and help you become the master of creating the life you want to live.

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